Forcing people to take sides in Turkey

Forcing people to take sides in Turkey

In the post-traumatic atmosphere after the bloody coup attempt of July 15, almost all people in Turkey are being forced to take sides or be labeled “the enemy. ” A “yes-or-no” choice is being imposed, like the “You’re either with me or against me” remark once made by the former U.S. President George W. Bush.

Take the statement by Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on Oct. 12. Highlighting criticisms from the main opposition Republican Party (CHP) about careless prosecutions while investigating the coup attempt, Yıldırım accused the CHP leader of giving support to Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-resident Islamist preacher who the CHP also believes was behind the coup attempt. 

It seems that anyone who mentions possible wrongdoing in the coup attempt probe can be stamped as a Gülenist nowadays. Ankara police sources complained earlier this week that they were fed up with receiving false denunciations in which, for example, an unfaithful spouse or a tenant who has not paid their rent is accused of being a Gülenist. Still, it is a common practice in Turkey at times like this to see false denunciations from members of an accused network trying to muddy the water, distract attention, and dilute investigations. Gülenists may also be part of this.

Meanwhile, if you condemn acts of terror by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has sent jihadist-style suicide bombers into urban areas to kill local politicians, you can easily be labeled a Turkish nationalist or Kurdophobe. Or if you criticize the U.S. - which official PKK documents criticize as a fascist-imperialist hegemon - for supplying arms to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian extension of the PKK, you can be labeled not only a Turkish nationalist and Kurdophobe, but also a Turkish racist and enemy of Kurds. 

On the other hand, if you criticize or report rights abuses in anti-PKK operations, you can easily labeled by pro-government sources a “helper of terrorists” or a “separatist.” 

If you criticize the PKK for its acts of terror and also criticize the security forces for heavy handedness in the same article, you can be attacked as a “stooge of terrorists” by pro-government voices and as a “stooge of the fascist state” by pro-PKK voices. 

If you stood against the July 15 coup attempt you are a hero of democracy, but if you do not subscribe to the executive presidential system aim of President Tayyip Erdoğan, your democratic credentials can be thrown into the dustbin.

It is not limited to politics. If you question the incredible failures of the Turkish national football team coach Fatih Terim, who is among the best paid coaches in the world, you can be labelled a traitor to the country.
Unfortunately, something similar has happened in discussions on today’s Turkey on international platforms. In the West, the reaction against Erdoğan’s politics has blinded some people, to the extent that they may even go as far as to feel sorry that the coup was defeated by the Turkish people. Some cannot believe that you can criticize possible wrongdoings in the post-coup investigations while at the same time accusing the Gülenists of carrying out the deadly coup attempt. 

You are expected to take one side or the other on every issue. 

Worryingly, this tendency can also be seen in the ongoing tragedy in Syria. In Aleppo, the Russia-backed Syrian regime forces people to take its side or be treated as part of al-Qaeda or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Unfortunately, there is little sign of hope that we can leave behind this abrasive atmosphere any time soon.